Sion LewisSion LewisSeptember 9, 2020
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6min2843

There is no question that video calls have become a lifeline for many over the past few months. Sales of the software have skyrocketed, virtual happy and coffee hours were our new favourite pastime, our workdays became cluttered with video meetings and we held more quizzes with friends and family than we thought possible.

As stay at home restrictions continue to ease, many businesses continue to support remote working for their employees. Video conferencing is still playing a big part in our lives. Especially our work lives.

But in a summer that has not only challenged us with a pandemic but also confronted us with questions about equality and diversity, how does this new way of working play a role in this discussion?

A new unconscious bias

With much of the strive and upheaval of this summer, unconscious bias is back in vogue. Organisations were praised or plundered based on responses to ongoing political and racial discussions, working groups were formed, and a renewed focus was put on diversity at every level of business.

We did this all remotely. For many of us it was restricted to a small rectangle sitting at our kitchen table, living room or in our makeshift office. It was a screen filled with tiny camera images that our colleagues occupied to work through hard discussions. But I doubt any of us took a step back to think about how this format of the discussion impacted unconscious bias.

The office used to be an equaliser. It was professional and separate from life outside of work. But with mass remote working becoming the norm we are forced to invite colleagues into our homes. So, this begs the question, has our bias evolved?

We used to focus our efforts to combat unconscious bias on first impressions, handshakes, eye contact, clothing choices. But much of this has now been taken away. Instead replaced with images from the shoulders up without physical interaction and limited body language to read. However, it could be argued that video conferencing has actually opened up new avenues for unconscious bias as we showcase more of our personal life to those we work with.

Family pictures, furniture choices, style preferences – they all contribute to the decisions that someone makes about us on a video call. Most of these are subconscious.

But what if it was actually the opposite? What if video conferencing actually made the playing field more equal?

The great neutraliser

While doing a video call from your dining room table might feel like it adds extra opportunities for bias, it could also be viewed as taking them away. One beige wall in the CEO’s house is no different from a beige wall in the home of a new university graduate. You are no longer walking into an intimidating office; you are being invited into the home of a colleague.

While the removal of the office might have been anticipated to create more inequality within the workforce, it has actually taken away some of what the office environment provides. Everyone is at home. Everyone has family or pets or deliveries that might unexpectedly join a call – no matter how senior or professional you are, nobody is immune to this situation.

This shared experience could actually be a trigger to relieve some of the unconscious bias we still hold onto in the office.

Powering compassion

Another unexpected side effect of our working world being on video calls is the outpouring of compassion we have seen for each other.

When you work in an office, to an extent, you are expected to leave the outside world at the door. You take on your professional persona. But when your professional world and private world collide in the way they have done this year, that is almost impossible.

Even if you were used to working remotely before the pandemic, it is unlikely that you were used to working remotely with kids and spouses and elderly parents around you as well. You probably weren’t used to scheduling times for meetings in your home office around the other people who needed it or sharing internet bandwidth with children doing online coursework or teenagers wanting to facetime their friends.

Each of our situations was different, but none without their own challenges, and this pushed our colleagues, managers, potential customers to be more understanding. To leave their bias at the virtual door and accept that these distractions might occur.

It humanised us and pushed us to accept that each person we interact with is unique and that is a good thing.

While unconscious bias in the workplace is unlikely to disappear because we have adopted a more remote working culture, we can also make sure that we don’t let it grow. Seeing video conferencing as a great equaliser that builds compassion and comradery – instead of an additional layer of judgement – will go a long way to embracing our new normal.


Sion LewisSion LewisJuly 5, 2019
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8min3441

Working in a call centre has been seen as the very epitome of the “McJob” – a low-paid, unrewarding role that’s usually viewed as a stepping stone to more responsible, better-paid and more meaningful employment.

It shouldn’t be this way.

Customer service representatives (CSRs) play perhaps the most important role in any organisation. They are a business’ window on the world; the face of the corporation. Great CSRs are worth their weight in gold- they solve problems, mollify irate customers, and turn anger and frustration into loyalty and respect.

Businesses need to treasure their CSRs and give them the support to solve customer complaints. If businesses are serious about delivering quality customer service, two things need to change. First, there needs to be a revolution in the way that we view contact centre work. Secondly, we need to give these workers the tools they need to conduct efficient conversations and to resolve customer questions quickly.

It’s time to value CSR

Businesses have little hope of delivering first-class customer service if they don’t value their CSRs, and a look at the hospitality industry is instructive here. In the UK, being a waiter is seen as a low-skilled ‘starter’ job.

But across the Channel, the French take waitering incredibly seriously. Waiters and sommeliers are typically highly trained and very knowledgeable about food and wine, and anyone who has eaten at a decent French restaurant will be familiar with the waiting staff’s air of authority and gravitas – all of which adds to the dining experience.

It’s the same for any sort of customer service. You can have the best product in the world, but if you don’t provide a great customer contact experience you will likely lose much of the goodwill that customers feel towards your brand. Unfortunately, many CSRs today lack the tools and the insight they need to provide fantastic Customer Experience.

Change is on the horizon

When a call comes in, it’s common for customer service staff to spend a significant amount of time authenticating the customer; once they’ve passed security, the CSR can then find themselves without a full picture of the customer and their history, and often lack the information they need to resolve the complaint quickly and efficiently.

There are signs that this view of customer service is about to change, however. AI-powered chatbots, for example, are increasingly taking responsibility for more routine enquiries, removing much of the drudgery of customer service roles and enabling operatives to focus on higher-value tasks.

But chatbots alone won’t transform the role of the CSR. If we are to change perceptions about customer service and make it a fulfilling line of work, we need to get rid of the irritations and inefficiencies that continue to bedevil the role. For example, CSRs typically spend only a quarter of their time actually helping customers. And here, AI can again come to the rescue.

The bigger picture: Businesses can now provide every CSR with all the information from an entire customer journey

Equipping CSRs for success

Smart companies that put a premium on customer service are deploying AI-powered contact centre software that enables them to provide a more in-person experience for online customers by anticipating questions and needs based on their history and where they are in the current journey.

Unfortunately, CSRs often do not have access to vital information such as purchase history or previous complaints. As a result, they go into conversations blind and spend significant amounts of time establishing basic facts before they can resolve the customer query.

Anyone who’s spent time on the phone to customer services will be familiar with the frustration of having to explain their situation multiple times to different customer service employees. By harnessing the latest generation of customer contact tools, businesses can provide every CSR with all the information from entire customer journey, from acquisition, through conversion and into post-sale support, providing companies with everything they need to create an exceptional CX.

Artificial intelligence can deliver meaningful and immediate benefits that put CSRs in the driving seat in every conversation. The benefits are legion: AI can filter out routine customer interactions that can be resolved by a chatbot or self-service, enabling agents to focus on more complex or high-value work. It can ensure seamless transition from bot to agent within the same chat window, meaning the customer doesn’t have to repeat themselves.

Meanwhile, the latest generation of contact centre tools consolidate data from every customer interaction and manages data from disparate systems to deliver real-time actionable insights for faster issue resolution – all of which means that customers spend less time explaining and complaining.

Small wonder that Forrester found that businesses with mature deployments of AI-powered contact centre software saw a 63 percent increase in net promoter score (NPS) and reported an average of eight points higher than their lesser mature counterparts. Furthermore, half of these organisations saw an increase in conversation rates, 56 percent reported an increase in revenue, and 40 percent saw an increase in order size. Even agent satisfaction increased under the more mature organisations with nearly 50 percent reporting an increase in overall job happiness.

If businesses are serious about putting the customer first, the place to start is in the contact centre. They must value these problem solvers and provide them with the tools they need to turn angry, frustrated patrons into loyal customers.




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